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Launch of 2011 census sees questionnaire go online for first time

The people of Northern Ireland will “help tomorrow take shape” -that was the message at |the launch of the 2011 census, which will be carried out on March 27.

For the first time it will be |possible to complete the questionnaire online.

Each household will receive a paper copy as usual, but each will be printed with a unique internet access code, so it is possible to choose how to fill it in.

Registrar General Norman Caven told the Belfast Telegraph the census was more than just a head count. He said: “It’s not just another form.

“An accurate population |number feeds into how much Northern Ireland gets in the |block grant.” Dr Caven said an accurate picture of population make-up and distribution was vital for the fair allocation of funding to public services.

“It ensures we get what is rightfully ours.

“They aren’t just questions on age and where you live — we find out details of your education, employment, your journey to work. All of this information forms the bedrock of good policy.”

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The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA), which conducts the census, has teamed up with the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to get students involved too, with the new Census for Schools programme. The programme will see the population survey incorporated in Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 curriculums.

Speaking at the event, CCEA’s director of education strategy Richard Hanna said it was |important to educate the citizens of the future.

He said: “Using the census as a learning theme offers many ways to teach students about numeracy, literacy and other cross-curricular skills.”

Mr Hanna said the census programme would help pupils realise their role as a citizen in the wider world.

However, while the census this year is the biggest ever conducted, it could also be the last.

And people who want to declare their religion as ‘Jedi’ or call themselves witches will still be able to do so in the 2011 census, |officials admitted.

In 2001 — the first time the questionnaire contained a voluntary question about faith — almost 400,000 people in the UK claimed they were members of the Star Wars movement.

Census questionnaires will start arriving at homes on the week beginning March 14.

For more information, visit www.census.gov.uk/ni or www.nidirect.gov.uk/2011-census.

Census background

The census collects data on the age, employment, health, education and general lifestyle habits of people living in the UK.

This information is collected every 10 years and it is compulsory to fill in the questionnaire. Some census questions, such as those on religion, do not have to be answered.

2001 saw the 200th anniversary of the census in Britain.

Land returns and local censuses have taken place here since the 1630s, but many included only details of landowners or noblemen.

From 1956 onwards Northern Ireland’s census has been carried out on the same day as those in England, Wales and Scotland.

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